Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. Lessons

Emma is a Girl Scout this year - well, technically she is a Brownie. It's her first year of scouting and so far it is a huge hit with her! She loves going to the meetings 2x/month. The meetings take place at her school and there are about 20 girls from her grade in her troop. Chris or I always join Emma for the meeting so that we can help her fully participate but often her fellow scouts take over and include Emma without needing (or wanting) our help.

I wasn't sure how scouting would go for Emma. It's at night after a long day at school and she is usually exhausted at night. I wasn't sure how she would participate in the circle time, crafts and activities with her troop but knew we could modify things on the fly. Since she expressed a strong interest to join we decided to give it a go and I'm so glad we did!

Our last meeting's topics of discussion were the upcoming Girl Scout Cookie Sale (if you need a hook up with cookies or want to donate money to send cookies to our deployed troops, let us know!) and Martin Luther King, Jr. When the leader asked the girls what they knew about Martin Luther King, Jr. it was great to hear that they knew so much about him and others involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Our activity that night was to draw on one sheet of paper Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream and then on another sheet of paper the girls were to draw their dream. During the activity a snack of Pirate Booty was served.

As is typical, Emma's friends sat by her side and offered to help her draw but Emma wasn't so interested. When I asked her if she had a dream she said yes. When I asked her if it had to do with school, she said no. Did it have to do with play? No. Etc, etc. Finally I asked her did it have to do with food? Yes. Her dream was to have me feed her more Pirate Booty. So funny - so Emma. Obviously, her dream was easy to make come true and it happened immediately.

While we were at our tables I shared with the girls how thankful I am for Martin Luther King, Jr. not only because I love that it ended segregation, but also that the Civil Rights Movement paved the way for the disability rights movement. Many of the protections passed as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act used the Civil Rights Laws as a framework. Until the ADA was passed on July 26, 1990 public accommodations for those with disabilities was not required. I can't imagine how our life would be impacted if we didn't have access to ramps or handicapped bathrooms at public places. Just 25 years ago these things were not commonplace. Today, we do encounter our fair share of challenges navigating our environment with wheels and that is after the ADA has been around for 25 years.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream matters. His dream helped shape the America that we live in today and for that I will forever be grateful.

If I was drawing my dream on the Girl Scout sheets last week, it would be that people with physical disabilities would be able to go anywhere - including places not mandated by the ADA - without worrying that they might not have "wheeled" access. That our worries would no longer be that there might not be a ramp, parking or a large enough handicapped bathroom (no, they are not all created equal in size!), but that our biggest worries would be that we might not have packed enough sunscreen or snacks.

Julia is on roller skates pushing Emma, who is also on roller skates and standing in her KidWalk gait trainer, around the roller skating rink at Emma's birthday party.